Thursday, April 20, 2006

Birthday Reflections

Today is my 35th birthday. Birthdays are always a time of reflection for me. What have I done with my life – what more do I want to do with my life. What can I do to be a better person, in body and soul.

After so many years, as a couple, going through infertility treatments, I always knew that “35” was an important age for a woman. Once you reach this numerical milestone, you are considered “advanced maternal age” and that means, according to the medical community, the chances of conception decrease dramatically because apparently, a woman’s eggs start to poach at 35. If you do achieve pregnancy, it is automatically characterized as higher risk, because of the mother’s age. They have linked a decrease in pregnancy rates, and an increase in birth defects (including Down Syndrome) to mother’s of “advanced maternal age”. I don't know what the future holds for us. We feel so thoroughly blessed with the family that we have - and neither of us feel the need to go through IVF, again. Having said that, we would be thrilled if we were blessed with another child. Or children. Yet, now that I am of “advanced maternal age” for the first time ever, I can clearly see that my “window of opportunity" for child bearing is closing. It's an odd sensation.

As I was reflecting on my past birthdays … a few things come to mind. First and foremost is how dramatically life has changed for me in the past few years. Three years ago, Charlie and I were convinced that we were never going to get pregnant; we were never going to have children. We’d tried just about everything under the sun and had been met with disappointment on too many occasions to count. I’d had a pretty significant health scare, earlier in the year, when a series of lumps that showed up along my neck, grew larger with time, and ultimately, required a biopsy to rule out cancer. My surgery was on St. Patrick’s Day and I had a lot of luck from the Irish, when we learned that I had an infection in my lymph nodes. It was not life threatening and I’d be fine, with time. Within a month of my surgery ... and still reeling from the "what-ifs" ... we let out a big sigh of relief, threw caution to the wind and sold our perfectly reliable 4-door sedan that would’ve been terrific for transporting children. We had bought this car because we'd thought we would have kids soon. We lived in Southern California where the weather was sunny 360 days a year and here we were driving around in a car that was intended for the children, carseats and strollers, we were never going to have. It was down right depressing.

It was like I was hit by a freight train ... I had an overwhelming need to change our lives, dramatically. Up until that point, I had never been on e-bay to buy anything. Yet here I was, at an online auction, with the winning bid for a bright red 330ci BMW convertible. I wound up not getting the car, because the “reserve” wasn’t met and someone contacted the seller and purchased it before I had time to respond. It was a bummer for me - but it was also hugely exciting that I just WENT for it. Charlie, in an amazing twist of fate, located the same exact car in Southern California, about 3 hours from our house. I was at a business meeting in Orange County, and he took the train up to surprise me, for my birthday. We spent the better half of my 32nd birthday at a car dealership in Huntington Beach purchasing our bright red convertible. It was and still is, my dream car. Could we easily afford it? No. But, it was a fun purchase and after my health scare – we were reminded that life is short and you never know what can happen. We both realized that we need to live for today. For the first time in a long time ... we were feeling good about our future. We were on top of the world and coming to terms with the fact that maybe, we weren’t going to have our own biological children. We had personalized plates made up for our car, “2B Sunny.” It was a play on words … about the weather and about our attitude.

A year later, on my 33rd birthday, we had our very first ultrasound and saw what we thought, were twins. When my doctor told Charlie to “Hang on a minute … look … there’s your bonus!” Charlie almost collapsed on the floor. We thought for sure he’d made a mistake and counted one of the twins twice … but alas, there were three babies, due to be born in December. We wasted little time selling our bright red convertible and replacing it with a 7-passenger van. Looking back, I have no regrets over selling the 4-door sedan. We would have had to get a new car anyway with the addition of our triplets. There is no way that car would have held all 5 of us ... and our gear. The convertible sure was fun, while it lasted - and I’m convinced the purchase of that car was instrumental to us finally achieving a pregnancy. It was almost as if we let our guard down ... we tempted the God's of fate, when our primary mode of transportation was a sports car.

Last year, on my 34th birthday, Charlie and I spent the day with our 6-month old “miracle” babies at a beautiful park in San Diego. I never would have believed that our lives could be so full of the joy that can only come with children. As I sat holding my babies - all three at once - I realized that my birthday wish for the past 10 years, had finally come true.

I’m still at a business meeting in Palm Springs and I think this has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. My co-workers threw me and one of my colleagues (whose birthday was on the 18th) an impromptu party last night. The setting was spectacular. We were on an outdoor patio overlooking a pool, surrounded by the most gorgeous desert landscape. As the sun set over the mountains, people in white coats served us wine from trays. Listening to my 20+ coworkers belt out Happy Birthday, I realized how blessed I am. At this point in time, I have an abundance of health, happiness, laughter and love filling my life, each and every day. I don't have much sleep or *me* time - but - I will at some point.

And so, I’m 35. I’m at an "advanced maternal age" but all is good in my world on this day. Borrowing from Van Morrison I'll agree that "If you live the life you love ... you get the blessings from above." Thanks, Mom.


  1. Jenna-
    HAPPY 35TH, YA' OLD LADY! Wish we could be with you today, but we'll see you guys in a couple of weeks!

  2. happy birthday jenna!
    you are such a good writer!
    please let me know when you come back to sc for a visit so duncan can meet your brood.

  3. Hapy Birthday and you are welcome. Now about this "Maternal Age"? I had you when I was 38 and you turned out pretty darned good in my opinion. You sound so happy and fulfilled and that makes me happy. Enjoy every day. Love and Miss you.

  4. Wow! Now we are only 3 years apart! Who knows maybe next year we will be the same age! (Refusing to go up -- Yes, I have my father's gene's)

    Happy Birthday Sis. I always knew you had talent w/all that I have had you write for me but gee whiz -your good.

    Love, M